Efficient Space / Australia / 2023 / 2LP
Searchlight Moonbeam is the new narrative compilation from Time Is Away (Jack Rollo and Elaine Tierney) whose eponymous monthly NTS Radio shows, tinctured fusions of fugitive sounds and reverie-inducing archival speech, have won them an ardent following. It follows from the London-based duo’s Ballads, a remarkable driftwerk released on A Colourful Storm in 2022.
Searchlight Moonbeam is an autumnal dreamscape, intimate and vespertine, pensive and irresolute. An imagined community where differences drop off and resonances emerge – between Maher Shalal Hash Baz affiliates Kasumi Trio, Taiwanese score composer Chen Ming Chang whose ‘Rainwater’ (written for Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s 1986 film Dust In The Wind) is exquisitely heartbroken, and the plangent improvisations of self-taught French pianist Delphine Dora.
Revelations are frequent: the bedsit isolationism of Bo Harwood and John Cassavetes’ ‘No One Around to Hear It’ (from The Killing of a Chinese Bookie); the narked minimalism of Klang (an early 2000s band formed by ex-Elastica guitarist and featuring prize-winning experimental novelist Isabel Waidner on bass); the etude-grooves and echoic wobble of below-the-radar French avant-gardists Omertà ; the beautiful, plaintively dubby ‘Is It You?’ by Slapp Happy; a psych-tinged reimagining of PiL’s ‘Poptones’ by Simon Fisher Turner (one half of Deux Filles, and here, recording for él as The King of Luxembourg) that's as perverse as the cover of Throbbing Gristle’s 20 Jazz Funk Greats.
Searchlight Moonbeam is the musical analog of an Italo Calvino novel or a medieval fable. Associative, intuitive, borderless. Emotional and mysterious. Endowed with the tactility of Braille. A private language that is both unknowable and understood. It is a record of the seasons, for the seasons.
2023 marks the tenth anniversary of Time Is Away’s first broadcast. Featuring an evocative essay by writer Jeremy Atherton Lin and disarming cover art by Penny Davenport, Searchlight Moonbeam showcases Rollo and Tierney’s still-unrivalled talent for gloaming melodies, disques du crépuscule and ensorcelled storytelling.